When President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that the country would be imposing travel bans after declaring a national “state of disaster” due to the coronavirus crisis, Carol Mkize knew it was time to return home.
The 40-year-old from Johannesburg had spent the past six months in the United Kingdom where she was studying Christian Apologetics at Oxford. She arrived back in South Africa on 18 March.
“They took my temperature – it was 36,5 degrees so it was good, and I was good to go,” Carol told YOU about her arrival.
Even though Carol was asymptomatic when she landed back home, she had already taken strict precautionary measures prior to her arrival.
“When the government announced the travel bans, they advised all of those who’d be returning to the country to immediately go into self-isolation for 14 days,” she said.
Since Carol shares a home with her sister in Joburg, to avoid any direct contact they agreed it would be best if her sister moved out and stayed with a friend before Carol arrived in SA.
“We needed to be extra careful – when I got home my sister had stocked up on all the essentials for me, so I didn’t have to go to the shops. I came straight home from the airport,” she said.
When she arrived at the airport, Carol said she was wearing her mask and even went as far as sanitising the Uber she took home.
“I did all of this because of the instructions we received from the President. I wanted to be very careful coming from the UK as it had already been declared a high-risk country with lots of infections at that stage.
“But in my mind, I didn’t think that I had coronavirus, so I’m grateful that I took those measures,” she went on to explain.
It was only a day after her self-isolation at home that she started to show the harrowing symptoms. “I arrived back in South Africa on Wednesday, 18 March, and by Thursday afternoon I noticed the symptoms. I had a sore throat, a headache and a dry cough.”
On 20 March, Carol tested for Covid-19 and got the dreaded phone call from her doctor on 26 March that she had contracted the virus.
“I remember when my doctor told me, I was obviously hoping that it would be negative although I had experienced the symptoms. I was trying to kind of dismiss it in my head.”
“My heart just sank,” she said, recalling the heartbreaking moment.
“I remember thinking, ‘What does this mean? Does this mean that I’m going to die?’ I’m the first person I know who has contracted coronavirus. And coming from the UK some people had already died – so for me I just really went through the shock,” Carol said.
It was only after telling her family the heart-rending news that Carol came face-to-face with the harsh reality of contracting the deadly disease. Initially she’d been in a state of shock and denial.
“I was chatting to my sister on the phone when I broke down and realised it was really hard for me. I was about to go through this journey without my family,” she said.
It wasn’t only the fear of being alone during this trying time that frightened Carol, it was also the uncertainty of life itself.
“It was really scary, very lonely and you start toying with the idea of death. There’s this thought, ‘Am I going to die?’”, she explained.
“After finding out I was positive the shortness of breath took a turn for me. Suddenly it was, ‘Is this my last breath?’. I found that I had to be mentally strong to get through each day.”
The first couple of days in self-isolation were the toughest according to Carol.
“I was struggling with the fever. It was chills and then breaking into sweats. I was struggling with a shortness of breath, my chest was really tight, I had a sore throat and then the dry cough just got worse over the next few days,” she said.
While the symptoms worsened she realised she had to take care of herself alone, with the support of her loved ones from a distance.
During her time in self-isolation, Carol had a couple of coping mechanisms that kept her going – the first one being God. “My relationship with God has given me more strength,” she said.
“Support from my friends and family helps and doing things that keep me going such as reading, listening to gospel – and not sleeping all the time because that left me really discouraged,” she added.
But after spending two weeks in self-isolation, she tested again for the virus and to her dismay the results were still positive.
“I went back to test 14 days after arriving in South Africa. I tested positive again, which was very distressing.”
Carol says the reason she had tested positive again, according to her doctor, was because she didn’t wait for 14 days to lapse after the symptoms had cleared up, instead she’d waited two weeks from the start of her self-isolation.
“I had to test 14 days after I felt the symptoms were gone,” she revealed.
Currently, Carol has been in self-isolation for 28 days and has taken another test after her symptoms subsided. She’s awaiting her results.
“Right now, I’m feeling strong again. All the symptoms are gone. One thing that was tough was the fatigue and exhaustion. But all of that is gone and my days are back to normal.”
Speaking about her experience, Carol emphasised the importance of all South Africans understanding the reality of this virus.
“The virus is real and it’s serious. The fact is it affects everyone – especially for someone who’s black and you hear a lot of people saying this virus doesn’t affect black people.”
To those who contract Covid-19, Carol advises being as open as possible about it. “You have to be honest with the people around you that you’re positive and self-isolate. Be encouraged and don’t lose hope.”
She also encourages South Africans to play their part to flatten the curve.
“The government has done everything they could to make sure we don’t spread the virus. Let’s play our part by abiding by the rules and complying with everything they put in place,” she added.
“As South Africans we’ve been through so much in the past, we’re very strong people. We can overcome this. The coronavirus might’ve affected our lives, but it won’t defeat us.”Source: News24